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No Sacred Cows  
Toby Young
Wednesday 13th August 2003

Lad Dad

The birth of your first child is meant to be one of those defining moments in life when you finally become a grown up, but it seems to have had the opposite effect on me. Far from maturing, I've started behaving like a 15-year-old boy. For instance, one night last week I waited for Caroline and the baby to fall asleep then tiptoed out of the house to go to an all-night rave. Admittedly, I only stayed for about an hour, but it was long enough to bump into several dozen of Caroline's friends, all of whom called her the next day to report on my whereabouts. When she confronted me about this, I did what any normal teenage boy would do under the circumstances: I stormed off, slamming the door behind me, and went and watched Baywatch Hawaii at my best mate's house.

The verdict of Caroline and her friends is that I'm "in denial". According to the armchair psychologists, it's not unusual for men to start "acting like idiots" after the baby arrives. It's just our way of "dealing with the situation". It's like an extended stag night, apparently. We need to run around "behaving like prats" before settling down. It's nothing to get "stressed out" about. I'll be fully domesticated within a couple of weeks.

I'm not convinced by this. It's not the baby I find difficult to cope with so much as the radical shift in the balance of power between Caroline and me. Until two weeks ago, I was the most responsible member of our household. I pay the mortgage, I pay all the utility bills, and if something goes wrong with the plumbing I get down on my hands and knees and fix it. (Okay, okay, I call the plumber.) But all these things pale into insignificance next to the monumental responsibility of keeping our child alive. Suddenly, Caroline has been catapulted into the stratosphere and I've been reduced to an ever-shrinking spec on the horizon. Until a fortnight ago, she had a symbolic importance in our household, much like a constitutional monarch, but no real power. Now she's the President of the United States.

Let me give you an example. Three days after the baby was born, I asked Caroline if she'd mind if I popped out for a round of golf. Admittedly, this was pretty inexcusable behaviour, but I still wasn't prepared for her response.

"Don't you want to spend some time with your daughter?" she asked, plaintively.

Jesus Christ, I thought. Robert Louis Stevenson was right. Marriage is a battlefield and our baby has already been weaponised. Not just any old weapon, mind you, but a WMD. No, Lord Hutton, I'm not sexing this up. Caroline had gone nuclear.

So naturally I picked up my clubs and marched out the door.

Still, it hasn't taken me long to realise that resistance is futile. My new-found passion for golf began to fade when I read that story last week about the man whose wife left him because he became obsessed with trout fishing. Apparently, when he wasn't out on the river he spent his time in a cupboard under the stairs working on his flies. As soon as his wife realised he cared more about his tiddlers than he did about their two toddlers, she filed for divorce.

"I would have left him, too," said Caroline.

I've now started giving Sasha her bath every evening and, I have to say, it's not as boring as I feared. As she kicks her legs out and waves her arms about, she strikes me as just about the funniest little thing I've ever seen. No doubt this daily ritual will lose its charm after a couple of months, but for the time being it's more fun that scoring a birdie on the 18th hole. Perhaps more importantly, it serves as a valuable peace offering to She Who Must Be Obeyed.

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Twitter RT @QuilletteM: From the archives: Author @_HelenDale asks what would have happened if the industrial revolution happened in Rome? link  (2 hours ago)


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